Category Archives: Quality

The Standard Shouldn’t be your starting point

The several different ISO standards can be great guidance when adding structure to an organization. However, the standard shouldn’t be the starting point for an organization when setting up any kind of management system. When you want to create a QMS it is important to start with the core processes of the organisation and especially the ones that have a direct impact on the quality of the product and services the company provides. A significant number of processes that are required for certification are new anyway such as having some kind auditing process. This approach will have little impact because they should reflect how they do their job already. However, do explain why the processes are formalized and that they should be followed. 

Written in Stone

Procedures and processes are not written in stone. Still the mentality within quite some companies is that they have to do it for ISO. A company doesn’t have to do anything for ISO, except for the couple documents that are required by the standard. In essence the standard wants the organisation to work according to how it is documented or formalized by the organization. When ways or working are somehow agreed within the organisation everybody should work accordingly, when people don’t a NC will be noted during an external audit. In essence the company just needs to do what is agreed upon and when it doesn’t it can simply change the procedure. 

Added value

The added value certification for the organisation diminishes rapidly when the feeling is that everything is done for ISO. Employees get the feeling that actions are taken for ISO instead of for the benefit of the organisation. When this is the paradigm in an organisation it is very hard to get it out of the culture and change the mindset of the people. Try to avoid it from the start and always start with showing the added value to the organisation regardless if ISO requires it or not. 

The added value of the different standards are evident in that they can help organisations to structurize and formalize their processes which can be great. The structidized way of working should always have a consistent quality and safety way of working in mind. When this is clearly communicated to the people in the organisation they will see this value. Always keep the added value in mind when you are going for formal certification on the management system.

Communication

The most important part in setting up a management system is communication. With good communication you will have support from every level in the organisation which will obviously help. Also when people are involved in the processes they will have some kind of

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Why Training Your Staff Is Important

Over the last couple of weeks, we spoke with several consultants based all around the world. One of the things that almost all of the consultants mentioned is that training your staff is very important. It is not only important for improving your business but there are many more reasons why you should train your employees.

Motivation

There were a lot of debates during the interviews over why training is so important. We merged it into four. The first one is to motivate the staff. Motivation not only comes with salary or fringe benefits. Training or education can also help to motivate the employees. They have more challenges in their work and they also learn new things.

Engagement

The next one is that training helps everyone to better understand how everything works in the organization, and this will lead to more employee engagement. When the staff understand how everything goes, the management or the board will involve the staff more within the company. This will ensure that the staff are more involved in everything that occurs within the company, and that will lead to a better culture.

Teamwork

Not only will training lead to a better understanding of your staff or a better culture, but it also will lead to improved teamwork. Employees will get to know each other on another level during a training session, compared to working on the floor together. The training is the connecting factor between all the employees from one department. They do the training together, which will lead to a common thing that they did together. Also, they can put the lessons from the training into practice together. This will improve the cohesion within the team.

Incorporating into the Daily Activities

And the most important one are the things the staff learn during the training, that they can incorporate into the daily activities. This will lead to more productivity and to a better culture even if the main goal of the training was some kind of team building. Your employees will be happier and more motivated to go to work. That’s why training your staff is so important.

Current Day

Training sessions are great ways to motivate people and increase employee engagement. However, the pandemic of course changes the way we can train our employees. The human touch will be gone for quite some weeks, so we need to find different ways. This is why Qooling now has a great e-learning module which you can try out for free.

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Working from home as a Quality Manager

Working from home can become quite tiresome and repetitive but it also holds some great opportunities for you as a Quality Manager. Normally you are running around with little time left to make fundamental improvements. We all know that it is important, but lots of us are just too busy with the day-to-day business. The distraction from colleagues and accidents that need to be solved right away doesn’t help with the overall improvements.

Review Procedure

Not being interrupted by your colleagues is a blessing when it comes to cleaning up procedures. During busy times, colleagues drop in with all kinds of questions. Most Quality Managers are distracted a lot due to the role they have in the organization. They are in the middle of everything that is going on, so most departments go to the Quality Managers when they have business questions. You might not know the answer, but most of the time you know who does or where someone needs to look to find the answer.

Being forced to work from home allows you to fully concentrate on reviewing the documents and really making some progress on improving them. Of course, don’t do this in full isolation; include people in the team to review the improvements via any web conference solution, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Analyze Data Thoroughly

A thorough analysis of data is another great activity you can do while working from home. We don’t mean creating a pie chart or a histogram. Great platforms will create these graphs for you. We are talking about real analysis and putting context to the data. Technology can visualize the data, but for years to come it won’t be able to make decisions for you on what to do. Yes, artificial intelligence will have a great impact here, but it will not be able to make these informed decisions for the coming years, if not decades, for now, it can only assist you. You know why certain deviations happened and maybe also what went wrong. Use these difficult times to advance and analyze the data you have.

Build Improvement Plans

In line with the analysis done in the previous step, use the analysis to create some great improvement plans that you can do when things come back to normal again. Lots of improvements fix the problem at hand but hardly the true root cause. Sitting at home gives you an excellent opportunity to have a deeper understanding of what went wrong and create improvement plans that solve the root cause. Also look back at the last couple of months. What things went right and what went wrong? Make a list of all these things and communicate this with the different departments in the company. Then they can look at this and make a plan for the next couple of months, what they want to improve in their work and what their goals are for the rest of the year. Now everybody has a goal to work for and they can look forward to get back to work and start working on completing these goals. Then everybody has new energy to get started again.

To conclude, please look at the bright site of things and use these exceptionally difficult times to your advantage. Start to improve the organization, but make sure to involve the rest of the team. This way, everybody is motivated to start working again after the Corona isolation is over. 

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Quality Management isn’t a One Man Show

Quality Management isn’t a one (wo)man show. Most of you Quality Managers know this is true, but within a significant number of companies, this is still the default. Phrases like “John is the Quality Manager, he takes care of Quality” is what exemplifies this. Quality is really an organization-wide effort—every level has either a direct or indirect impact on how the customer experiences the goods or services.

Team Effort

We have been saying this a lot, and most of you know it by heart: Quality is a team effort. But let’s rephrase this, Quality Management is a team effort. Everybody in the organization does something that has a direct effect on the Quality the company delivers. This can be the office manager that picks up the phone with a friendly voice or the service engineer that performs services when required, and every step in between. However, the people that don’t work directly with the customer also have a direct effect on Quality, although there isn’t a direct impact by the job they do. This could be the warehouse manager or the financial admin. That is why we make a separation between direct impact roles and indirect impact processes.

Direct Impact

The moment the customer interacts with the organization, there is a direct impact by the employee on the perceived Quality of the company. This can be a person or the product the company provides. It is essential to meet the expectations of the customer at that moment. Of course, things can go wrong and customers will accept that if it is solved in the best way possible. Those with a key role are the service and support people that are in contact with the customer when things go wrong. These are the people that can have a great impact on the relationship with the customer and therefore on the Quality perception of the customer.

Indirect Impact

The indirect impact gets a lot less attention. These are all the processes that don’t have a direct connection with the customer but have a severe impact on the quality perception. Great examples are logistic processes, when delays pile up in the warehouse or when things get messed up in finance. These processes can have a serious negative effect on the Quality perception. The support and service team are then loaded with the burden of fixing this, which can lead to a significant workload. For an organization, it is important to always keep an eye on these processes and not only focus on the processes with direct customer connection.

The Organization

When we look at the direct and indirect impact of the processes, we clearly see that everybody has an important role in the consistent Quality of the products and services. It also makes it pretty clear that Quality Management is a team effort. Your role as the Quality Manager is to guide people into adding value to the management system and give them the right tools to do this. When Quality checks and Quality-related activities become part of their day-to-day routine, it becomes seamless for them. This way, you will get much more input to improve difficulties in processes. This way the organization gets better aligned and there will be less friction.

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Quality Management, does a certificate help?

Previously we touched upon whether or not a certificate is worth it. This post led to quite some discussion, with strong opinions from both sides. However, looking at Quality Management in general you can ask the question, “Does a certificate add value, and if so, how?”

As you might know, we believe Quality Management is important for everybody in the company. Every person has an influence on the Quality of the product or service the company produces. But to do this, is a certificate required other than a customer requirement? Lots of companies deliver high-quality products, but most of them are not certified.

Certificate

Of course, a certificate is not required to produce high-quality products. Every company that has a great focus on Quality will be able to produce high-quality products and services regardless. The people in the organisation mainly determine quality, not by the certificate. However, the certificate can give a certain kind of guidance and structure that can help a lot. There are certain things that need to be formalized, such as continuous improvement. Having the Management System audited on a regular basis puts back the focus on it. In the end, it all depends on how the management system is set up and how the employees use it. Nevertheless, there are always industries where you simply cannot operate without the certificates.

Structure

A standard forces a certain structure in the Management System. Yes, with most standards, you have quite some freedom on how to set up the Management System, but there are certain requirements for a company to work accordingly. A great example is the focus on continuous improvement. These can feel rigid in a way but they also give a great framework when you are trying to get some kind of structure in the organization. This structure can also work great as a playbook for expansion when the company wants to keep a certain level of Quality throughout different branches in different parts of the world.

Force for Change

In every company, there is room for improvement. However, convincing people to move and change the way they work isn’t easy. An advantage of having an auditor coming in every year is that as a Quality Manager, you can leverage them to force internal change. When speaking with hundreds of Quality Managers, we hear over and over again that they do this. However, when you use this tactic, never tell the people that the auditor is forcing this change, as this will not go very well. Not being certified makes it harder or even impossible to use this practice.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, a certificate isn’t really required, but it can help the company quite a lot in structuring the Quality Management within the company. Also, the external audits can be some kind of leverage to create change.

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Quality can sometimes feel ungrabbable

Quality can feel immeasurable sometimes. By immeasurable, we don’t mean all the KPIs we defined within our management system. We have great KPIs to measure company performance, which include things like:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Production fail rates
  • Recalls
  • Costs of Quality

We say Quality is immeasurable more in the sense of soft output—things like how Quality culture is and how our employees see their work in relation to Quality.

Measuring Quality

Quality Controls in production environments are crystal clear, it either falls within range or doesn’t. If the product doesn’t fall within acceptable levels, it will be rejected. However, Quality Control in more interpersonal activities is much harder to measure. How do you rate the support of a company, for example? Not picking up the phone is a clear bad sign, but the tone of voice of the employee can also have a big impact. Especially the service departments of companies face these interpersonal complexities. Companies and business gurus came up with all kinds of measuring tools to get a good feeling about this, but the fallacy is still embedded in it. What if the person on the other end of the phone is just having a bad day? We cannot easily compensate for this other than in a statistical way. Also, most of these methodologies are making use of the average from lots of data, which is great, but doesn’t say anything on individual cases. Just measure the things that are important and acknowledge that there is bias in the data. And always check for the biggest impact, not only the average of all the data.

Outside Process

To make it even more complex, there are certain outsourced processes that also have a significant impact on the quality perception of the customer. A great example is the delivery guy/girl that delivers the packages for your company. He or she just drops the package over the fence without much care or wasn’t able to deliver it. The customer would get annoyed at the company while you weren’t able to complete control the process. Yes, again, there are ways to measure suppliers, but there is no way for the company to control this process because there are no internal resources for this. In order to have a good feeling of control, make sure critical suppliers are regularly audited and allow customers to easily file a complaint on your website. Use this data to manage and control the outsourced processes. This gives at least some form of control.

Conclusion

Get comfortable with having these immeasurable and hard to define KPIs within the company. There will always be certain outputs that are hard to measure; just make sure there is clear guidance within top management, as well as within the workforce, on how to perceive them. Getting the Quality mindset adopted throughout the company will ensure a much better feeling on the Quality within the company. Create measurable KPIs where possible to back things up with data.

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Integrate Quality in Your Company Strategy

Quality is a key pillar in every organization. When a company delivers inferior Quality, it will be out of business quite soon. Hence, maintaining high-quality products and services is very important. However, getting Quality Management deeply embedded in the organization isn’t always easy. Everybody within the organization needs to understand his/her impact on the Quality and, more importantly, the perception of Quality of the customer. Quality should be embedded in every part of the business to truly deliver the best Quality possible.

Quality Consistency

Especially when the organization gets larger and more people are involved in the products and services, maintaining consistent Quality levels can become hard. This is when having a clear vision of what Quality means to the company becomes essential. Creating this vision should not be simply handed over to the Quality Manager—this is a job for Top Management. A properly functioning Quality Management System is critical in this. Having more people touching the product and/or service means that there is more room for inconsistencies. We are all human, so we will not deliver constant Quality, which is fine. As an organization, it is important to keep the minimum Quality level steady, regardless of who is doing the job. This is guaranteed by creating proper Quality checks.

Top Management 

The involvement of Top Management in the strategy is one of the most critical aspects. Top Management has to show their dedication and focus on Quality within the organization. Getting this involvement isn’t always easy, but with some techniques, this is doable. Some great tips are:

  • Using data to show Top Management how Quality performs
  • Show how customers value the Top Quality
  • Show the costs of not having Quality 

These are just a few points to use, but there is much more. The type of indicators come from anywhere in the company: logistics, production, sales or HR. This clearly shows that Quality is embedded in every part of the company. The exact triggers are, of course, also dependent on the personality of the people in Top Management. Make sure you communicate with them in a way that is in line with their personality.

Employee Involvement

Yes, Top Management involvement is critical, but without involvement from the employees, Quality Management isn’t working either. The employees are the people that do the job and see when things are going right or wrong. They are crucial in having a Quality Culture. They need to look at everything they do through Quality glasses, which will really increase the overall Quality. Never ever forget to make them part of the Quality strategy and translate the Quality to clear things they need to do.

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What Really Matters in QHSE Management

My days as a QHSE Manager are long gone, now I am lucky to be able to help many more companies than I could ever imagine. Every day, we help companies to push much further than simple compliance. Quality, Safety, and Security are about so much more than just compliance. Yes, compliance is an important component, but a company can get so much more out of a proper working management system.

Safety Is Everything

Safety should come before anything else. You can simply not do anything when people get injured all the time. Eventually, you will be left with nobody to do the job. The business reasons aside, we have a duty to everybody to make sure people leave through the door the same way they arrived. This has nothing to do with compliance perse, but just good moral and business practices.

With this in mind, safety should be practical as well. We hire professionals or train people to become professionals. Please trust them a little bit. Only intervene when things are getting out of hand and try to grow a sense for people that are slacking.

Quality Is Everything

Quality is not just the product or service produced or delivered by the company. Quality is everywhere from the marketing material, packaging, employees, and customers to even the way you handle leaving customers. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the Quality should be great and the experience should be even better. Not everything will go according to plan, but make sure the customer is informed and knows what is going on. Try to make these bad experiences as painless as possible.

In essence, this has nothing to do with compliance to begin with, it is just good business. The Quality standards (ISO9001/IATF16949/IS13485) are merely guidelines. As a company, you should strive to do the best you can, regardless of the applicable standard.

Security Is Everything

In today’s highly connected world, digital security should be an incorporated part of the management system. Even if the company isn’t certified for any standard, it is crucial to take the necessary steps in order to prevent a breach. Ransomware costs billions every year and up to 8 billion dollars globally. Having a proper security program in place is critical, especially for non-IT companies. It still happens too often that people click on a link or PDF without knowing the sender.

Again, the 8 billion spent on Ransomware has nothing to do with compliance. You need to make sure the company is ready and resilient to these matters, whether you are certified or not.

Culture

The certification, whether it is ISO9001, ISO14001, ISO45001, or ISO27001, is merely a framework. In the end, almost all the compliance topics boils down to culture. Some people might say, “It is not important” or “Don’t bother me with this”—but they don’t really get it. As a Quality/Safety/Compliance manager it is your duty to make them see the importance. It is not your job to do all the tedious tasks, those should be done by the responsible person. You should guide them, train them, and make them aware. A culture is created by everybody in the organization and the stakeholders close it. But it is your job to make Safety, Quality, and Security a part of the culture.

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Quality 4.0, What Is It?

There have been thousands of articles written about Quality 4.0 in various contexts and for various industries. Some claim that you should gather information, make the SOP digital available and train employees via e-learning. Yes, you should do all of this but that was part of Quality 3.0, not 4.0. If your company hasn’t moved to a Quality Management Cloud Platform, you are not ready for Quality 4.0, unfortunately.

So before you start to even think about a Quality 4.0 strategy, make sure you have a good foundation. You simply cannot try to execute the strategy without a proper QMS Cloud platform. You need to have the infrastructure to gather the data, connect the data and analyze the data. The implementation of the Quality 4.0 strategy can take years, so make sure the platform is able to adapt to changes in the market and allows for adjustment.

Data Is Key

Quality 4.0 is mainly about leveraging a significant amount of data to increase the Quality of the products and services produced. This sounds pretty straightforward because we crunch data every day, but having the right data is actually quite difficult. Most companies do have data, lots of data. However, when they start analyzing it they see big missing chucks, inconsistent data and simply corrupted data.

Having machines that are able to share their data, easy-to-use interfaces to create valuable data and other sensors and IoT solutions that generate data are essential sources. To further enrich your internal data, it is possible to buy datasets from bit Data Management Platform provider. These external sets can be used to benchmark your internal data or find context. The data needs to be vast, but more importantly accurate, so make sure data quality checks are in place to ensure this. In the end, wrong data can lead to wrong conclusions.

Connecting the Dots

When you really want to make sense of the data you are harvesting, it is important to connect it all. When going the Quality 4.0 route, open platforms and systems are key. It should be possible to connect the different systems and platforms with each other without much effort. This way data can easily flow between the systems and they can make sense of it for their particular purpose. The machine data can be used to predict production problems in a badge by the QMS platform. The same data can be used to plan predictive maintenance by the Asset Management platform while the ERP uses it to bill the customer. A single source of data can be interpreted and used in several different ways by different solutions so make sure it flows easily. This is why it is essential to allow for integration between different solutions and platforms.

The important component is that the data should be accessible to multiple departments. Different departments can leverage data in different ways as described by how the machine data can be used. In order to make the data accessible and interpretable for different departments, great BI tools are key. These are the platforms that visualize the data and give them more context to the people.

Make sure the data is not only accessible to management but make it visible to every layer in the company. This will get them informed but also engaged in the performance of the company. Quality 4.0 is not only digital and data, the main component is still and will always be the people.

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Quality as a driver for Growth

Quality Management is regularly seen as a cost center. The organization may have the feeling they need to shell out a significant amount of money to set up a Quality Management System and get it off the ground. Then when a certificate is required in order to prove that the QMS somehow functions, more money is needed. This perception is a big struggle for Quality departments all around the world, even though the facts are different. Quality is actually a true profit center if it is done correctly and genuinely incorporated into the fibers of the organization. This is because high-quality products and services are a key driver for added value and business growth. Creating and maintaining a high level of quality should, therefore, be a top priority to everybody in the organization.

Quality as Your Differentiator

The Quality of the products and services is the number one differentiator a company has. Having superior quality products and services will give the company a head start over any of its competitors. With this we mean Quality in the broadest sense of the word—from the first interaction with the sales team to the continuous interaction with the service team and everything in between. When this experience is world-class, people will come back and retaining an existing customer is so much easier than developing new ones all the time. Besides, the market will see the superiority of the products and services and companies want to do business without much effort. Hence when the Quality is high class and above expectation it will become a big driver for growth. This is very different than the cost center as some companies look at it.

The Quality Management System

To be honest, it is at the QMS level where the discrepancy between Top Management and operation starts to happen and where the problems start. Passionate Quality Professionals incorporate the standards in the QMS, which leads to quite some procedures. On the other hand, Top Management, as well as a number of employees, just see a bunch of required documents and procedures without much added value. They have the feeling the QMS is mostly created to please the auditors and not to have the quality in mind, let alone help them. However, these procedures and policies are designed to maintain the high level of Quality the company is striving for. It is crucial to articulate this clearly; leaving out any reference to the standards will be a good start. Next to that, keep talking about the added value of maintaining the Quality. Explain that the checks and balances such as audits and quality checks are created to maintain the Quality of the products and services, not to bother them. This is well known by us Quality professionals but it is not in the heads of Top Management. It is our job as Quality Professionals to get it there and show how the business can reach growth thanks to it.

Make It Measurable

When making compelling arguments to Top Management but also to other employees, it is essential to have data to back up claims. Data such as customer satisfaction, referrals from current customers, services call reductions, recall reductions, production error reductions, etc. When using data it is important to put them into perspective for Top Management. When, for example, production errors went up by 10 percent but production itself went up by 50 percent, the 10 percent isn’t really that bad. In this case it is better to make use of ratios. For numbers such as referrals from existing companies, they can be presented as they are. This also shows that it is important you get this data and you get involved in the sales organization as well to make sure you can trace back these referrals.

In Quality we might not impact the numbers directly but we create the road for others to excel and growth for the business.

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